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video 2020-02-05 23:00

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review 2019-03-31 18:56
Now You're One of Us by Asa Nonami, translated by Michael Volek and Mitsuko Volek
Now You're One of Us - Mitsuko Volek,Michael Volek,Asa Nonami

Because they owe someone money, Noriko's parents agree to consider an arranged marriage between her and Kazuhito Shito. Kazuhito is handsome, kind, and wealthy. The marriage's main drawback is that Noriko would be expected to move away from her small town and live with Kazuhito and multiple generations of his family in their home in Tokyo. It makes Noriko nervous, but Kazuhito is wonderful and everyone in his family seems so nice when she meets them. In the end, she agrees to the marriage.

Everything goes well, for a while. Nobody's personality suddenly changes - everyone is just as friendly as when she and Kazuhito first met. It does turn out that Kazuhito wasn't immediately forthcoming about his mentally handicapped younger brother and bedridden grandfather, which Noriko worries is a sign that she'll be roped into being their caretaker, but thankfully that isn't the case. Everyone in the family supports each other, and disagreements are resolved by the family matriarch, Great Granny Ei.

Two months after her marriage to Kazuhito, Noriko's peaceful life is interrupted by the arrival of a man from the nearby area. It turns out that the Shitos are his landlords and he hopes to get permission to pay his rent a little late this month. He also wants to tell Noriko something important but is interrupted by one of the Shitos before he gets the opportunity. After that, Noriko visits her parents for the first time since her marriage and comes back to discover that the man and his entire family died in a fire. It's arson, a suspected suicide, but Noriko begins to wonder. What had the man wanted to tell her? Did the Shitos murder him to prevent him from talking?

I wanted to read this for several reasons: the cover art was intriguingly cryptic (after finishing the book, I still have no idea what anything on the cover except maybe the little line is supposed to be), the author is a woman (it seems like most Japanese fiction translated into English is by male authors), and I had read several reviews that referred to this as Japanese gothic fiction.

I really enjoyed the bulk of this book. The mystery was intriguing, and the slightly off atmosphere was wonderful. When Noriko was at the Shito family home, it was easy to forget that this was a contemporary-set novel - it made the house ever-so-slightly claustrophobic, which intensified as Noriko's suspicions began to pile up. Were the Shitos really as pleasant as they seemed? What was the real purpose of Great Granny's private meetings with members of the nearby community? Was the relationship between Kazuhito's sister and mentally handicapped brother really as incestuously close as it seemed?

Unfortunately, the mystery was somewhat ruined by Nonami telegraphing important details too soon. I spent much of the book thinking "Okay, Noriko and I both suspect that __ is going on, but since that explanation is pretty obvious, surely the truth must be something else?" Except it wasn't. There were a couple surprises, but I think the ending would have had much more of an impact if the things Noriko spent most of the book suspecting had been more different from what was actually going on.

I did find the process by which the Shitos made Noriko one of them unsettling and disturbing (content warning for on-page gaslighting and abuse, particularly emotional and mental), but that, too, didn't have as much impact on me as it should have had, not even after the fates of a couple other characters were revealed. I found important aspects of the ending to be very difficult to swallow. The more people who know a secret, the harder it should be to keep, and the Shito family secrets had reached a point where the police should have heard something and gotten involved. And yes, the family was rich, but surely they couldn't afford to bribe everyone?

This book had a lot of promise and could have been amazing, but unfortunately it fell a little flat for me in the end. Still, I enjoyed the bulk of it and don't regret reading it. I intend to try another one of the author's works at some point in the future.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-09-17 14:57
Magic Realism Square
Nights at the Circus - Angela Carter

- A story about stories and illusion.

Magic and reading have something in common. It’s that thin wedge that question of what is real and what is fantasy. We know that the magician is doing some trick, but we just can’t get it, can’t figure it out. With books, good ones at least, the trick is the writing taking you someplace else. Books aren’t the only thing that can do this – a good movie, painting, music. 
It’s this line between reality and fantasy that Carter explores in this novel about a circus performer who may actually have real wings. At first glance it seems as if Fevvers is the only character with this problem, but every character in the book comes into contact with this question. Even the tigers, which may or may not really be jealous lovers.
In many ways, this is the human condition, the search for ourselves. Is our work face our real face? It might not be the wings that Fevvers has, but the question of reality and fantasy is one we change and fight in some way every day

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review 2017-01-29 05:18
A Gothic Tour
The Poe Estate - Polly Shulman

This is an homage to Gothic fiction lovers aimed at younger readers. I loved that about this book. It's metafiction that takes it even deeper. There is story within a story within a story. I read The Wells Bequest first, which is the science fiction volume of this series. I liked it, but I liked this more because I love Gothic/Classic horror. It's apparent that Shulman does as well. I made a note of all the books she alluded to. Many I had read, but I got ideas for others to look up and read.

The overall concept was well done, and some elements were quite serious for a MG level book. This book deals with death in a very matter-of-fact way. Suki's sister died and her ghost is her protector. Except Kitty is getting to be problematic in her protectiveness, leading to Suki's reputation as being weird, and Suki needs to let her go. Her parents have to move in with a great, great-aunt into a house that is part of her family's strange and tragic history. As Suki gets drawn into an adventure related to her ancestor's tie to the house and interacts with employees from the New York Circulating Repository, she learns that it's important to accept her sister's death and try to move on.

I couldn't give this book higher than 3.5 stars because it is written in too lightweight a fashion. Some serious topics are put out there and there are deeper levels that don't get delved into with this book. I feel that there was a longer book inside of this one that didn't get written. I understand that some things had to be pared down due to format, but I would have liked to see that other book that this book shows potential for turned out. On the good side, I love how multicultural it is, and the fact that all families aren't the same, and that hardworking people experience financial difficulties and lose their homes and jobs. Not because they are lazy, but because of things outside their control. Suki is a strong young girl to go through all of this and keep on going. I had mad respect for her and her family. I cried about her sister and some of the tragic events from her family's past.

I love the metafiction concept. I could read about that for days. I could have spent hours more delving into this interest world that Shulman created. I wish I had 100 more pages of this gem. I will always be a cheerleader for middle grade fiction. While I was somewhat disappointed with this book, I would still recommend it to readers who love classic and Gothic horror.

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text 2016-09-26 17:30
Gothic Square
Unholy Loves - Lisa Appignanesi



Appignanesi is a wonderful writer.  I love her Memory Man.  Her Dead of Winter is great.


This book not so much.  The gothic mood is captured very well, but I didn't care what happened to anyone.  It was so much annoying. And too predictable.

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